David Lowery battles a tricky line in A Ghost Story, struggling to create something profound and unique that occasionally falls into the precarious hole of pretentiousness, confusion and disorientation. The film reaches all of these epithets, but only remains a worthwhile endeavor because it is indeed wholly different from other summer flicks audiences will see. It takes chances, which very few movies can say nowadays.
There isn’t much of a plot to A Ghost Story. Composed of long, static shots and penetrable silence, the 90-minute run-time can still seem a bit gruesome, especially to those viewers who do not enjoy the “indie” film genre. The wonderful cinematography by Andrew Droz Palermo, shot lovingly in a 4:3 aspect ratio is sublime. Casey Affleck stars as our main character who dies in a car accident but stays on as a ghost to watch over his partner, Rooney Mara. Covered in a plain white sheet with black eye-holes, we follow Affleck’s ghost throughout time until the film reaches a satisfyingly dissatisfying conclusion (think Pulp Fiction’s gold-lighted briefcase).
Several times throughout the movie, I found myself wondering if David Lowery’s directorial and narrative choices truly made sense. Did he make these choices because he thought they were superb cinema, or because he wanted to create something “deep,” or because it would be obscure enough to confuse viewers into thinking they were enjoying the movie?
At times, I felt that I could even hear Lowery directly saying to the audience, “You should be moved here! This is meaningful and isn’t supposed to make sense because life doesn’t!” He seems no better than the wannabe philosopher who goes off on a serious, sincere rant about the indifference of the universe and humanity’s purpose in it, or you know, the conversation you had in college when you would get stoned with your friends.
But at the same time…I couldn’t stop thinking about the movie for the next few days. Despite his many attempts to annoy me, Lowery was still able to connect with me in some way, although it wasn’t explicable. And maybe that was his vision for the movie. Perhaps this empty meditation on life, purpose, time and death was an experimental, visually stunning piece of work that urges viewers to simply gain an artistic experience like something out of the MOMA. I’ll probably need to see it again to solidify my true thoughts on it, as will others.
Verdict: 3 out of 5
A Ghost Story in large succeeds because of its rare, strange and affecting experience, even if it is bogged down by its dreams and ambition to be greater than it is. Every moviegoer is bound to have a singular experience, and I’ve found viewers that hated it with a passion and others that have hailed it the best movie of 2017. Regardless, there is much room for interpretation, so might as well go support indie filmmakers while you and your friends debate its meaning most likely in a hipster bar in Brooklyn drinking $10 craft beer.